I might as well write about this. It’s a story told many times and most recently again this week.
It happened years ago on a ferry from Macau to Hong Kong. My colleague Melvin and I had just met a Chinese business agent in the harbour in some kind of spy mission setup – look for Mr.Chen in a grey suit with a brown envelope. We had no idea how the person looked like or if he was legit.
That’s how it was in those days; one took all sorts of chances to do business in the mainland. Actually I had to insist Melvin accompanied me after hearing grizzly tales of foreigners gone missing or involved in rather unpleasant dealings.
It was raining heavily when we headed back to the island. The sea was choppy and the ferry was bopping like a toy in a bathtub as it crossed the Dadong Bay. We were sitting facing each other in a noisy corner not at all conducive for any decent conversations. I was gazing at the shimmering coastal lights and lost in my own thoughts.
Out of the blue, Melvin asked me “What would you do if you stop working?”
Well I wasn’t thinking about that at all. I was thinking about how we can do business without going through the trouble of having intermediaries to get into the huge China market.
But Melvin’s question got me thinking about an old passion which I’d not discussed with anyone, not even myself, if that makes any sense. What I mean is that in the whirl of career building and raising families, we harbour secret ambitions that we put aside and subsequently forgot because we simply don’t allow ourselves to explore them.
I could have brush off Melvin’s question and change the subject or simply ignore him. It was a long day; I was tired from meetings after meetings. Perhaps as a reprieve from the drudgery of work, I opened up.
“I hope to be a writer”
Oh dear. I regretted immediately. I’d revealed my most secret secrets. I wished Melvin didn’t hear me. The boat engine was drowning our voices. I was sure Melvin didn’t hear me. I tried to look away.
Instead, Melvin caught my eye and said in a solemn tone, “Don’t hope.”
What? Was he saying it was hopeless for me to be a writer? There I was exposing my most cherished dreams and this chap within slapping distance, had the guts to put me down with those insulting words. I was shocked.
Before I had the chance to respond he continued, “If you want to be a writer, just do it. You won’t get anything done by hoping.”
I remembered every word and every expression very well. Melvin has large eyes, an angular jaw, purple lips of a smoker and cigarette stained teeth. I’d never starred at him for so long before. Damn! I hate to admit but he was right.
In due course, I left my job and started writing. Since then, I published two historical fiction books and wrote for publishing firms.
Writing has been and continues to be a gratifying journey and I have Melvin to thank for. So when anyone asks how I got started with writing, I’ll tell the story of Melvin in the ferry.
It was probably one of the best advices someone gave me even though it wasn’t done in the most elegant way. But we do need that tipping point to be pushed to do something extraordinary, don’t we?
For those who have secret passions and delayed goals, don’t just hope. Make them happen and enjoy your labour of love.
All the best! JY